USWNT Qualifies for the Olympics with Win over Costa Rica

January 28, 2012

Surviving a dicey first half, the United States Women’s National Team defeated a feisty Costa Rica side Friday night 3-0 to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

With one of the deepest rosters in the world, USWNT coach Pia Sundhage selected regular starters Hope Solo, Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Lauren Cheney, Heather O’Reilly and Abby Wambach and added in Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath to round out the roster.

Here are four thoughts from the game.

Kelly O’Hara has been a revelation as an outside back

Some followers of the USWNT may have raised an eyebrow when Sundhage released her roster for the tournament, with forward Kelley O’Hara on the roster – listed as a defender.

Following the knee injury to Ali Krieger in the opening game of the tournament, the decision to bring O’Hara, instead of veteran defender Stephanie Cox, looked even more questionable.

However, playing as an outside back, O’Hara has easily been one of the best U.S. players on the field. In her debut against Guatemala, O’Hara provided beautiful service from the left side of the field and assisted on three goals.

On Friday night against Costa Rica, O’Hara was again fantastic, getting forward to win the corner that resulted in the first goal, showing off her recovery speed in stifling the Costa Rican attack, consistently winning challenges and showing a level of quality possession rare for a defender.

Kudos to Sundhage for the decision to convert O’Hara to a defender and kudos to O’Hara for doing it so well.

Injured or not, Hope Solo saved the U.S.

Battling a quad pull which was obviously still bothering her, Hope Solo made a number of solid saves, including a spectacular one to deny a Costa Rican breakaway. Solo was so solid in the air, she made repeated Costa Rican services into the U.S. box a waste of time.

In an odd way, Solo’s injury may have even helped the Americans. On numerous occasions from backpasses, where Solo would have normally cleared the ball far up the field, Solo instead made short passes wide to her outside backs, helping the U.S. possess the ball out of the defensive third.

Alex Morgan must be inserted into the starting lineup

The moment Morgan entered the game, the U.S., which had been struggling all night and was only up 1-0, came alive.

Morgan immediately used her pace to open up the Costa Rican defense, ran at defenders and set-up the second goal when she laid a pass in behind the Costa Rican defense for Abby Wambach.

Morgan also scored the third goal in a play of sheer determination as she battled through two Costa Rican defenders and the keeper to put the ball, and the game, away.

The U.S. needs to change its formation before the Olympics begin

Anyone who has watched the U.S. play over the past year must now realize the team is much better with the inclusion of Alex Morgan. In addition to her play last night, Morgan scored clutch goals for the U.S. in both the semifinals and finals of the World Cup.

However, with Sundhage preferring a 4-2-3-1 with Wambach as the lone striker and Sundhage unwilling to play Morgan as a wide attacking midfielder, a change is needed.

The 4-4-2 would seem to be the obvious answer, but with the playmaking ability of Lauren Cheney as an attacking midfielder, it would seem a waste.

With a overflow of world-class forwards on the roster, a 4-1-2-3 would seem to suit the U.S. the best. With Shannon Boxx occupying the holding role and Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney playing the other two midfield positions, the U.S would be free to play Wambach as a central forward with Morgan, O’Reilly, Rapinoe, Rodriguez and Leroux to rotate at the other two forward positions.

John D. Halloran

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4 Responses to USWNT Qualifies for the Olympics with Win over Costa Rica

  1. Maureen on January 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

    what about a 3-5-2 formation?

    Boxy and Lloyd at DM, Morgan and Abby at forward, Cheney at attacking mid, Pinoe at LM, HAO at RM.

    Defense O’Hara, Captain America, Sauerbrunn. Please.

    • John Halloran on January 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      We probably have enough speed in the back to make it work, especially because I would trust O’Reilly and Rapinoe to track back defensively.

      Good idea.

  2. DE Dupuis on January 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I’m very pleased the USWNT won and are Olympics bound.
    Kudos to Costa Rica, they were brave, tough (and really good looking), and played attractive soccer – they just didn’t have quite enough horsepower and clearly ran out of gas.
    I don’t mean to be a contrarian, but – why do folks think Sundhage is doing such a great job. The team could coach themselves and do better. The evidence?
    O’hara is fantastic, the idea that she hasn’t been a regular starter is, well, fantastic – crazy. She’s really fast, tough, composed on the ball, always has ideas, and has a great work rate.
    Morgan is our most dangerous player, yet does not start. Morgan must be searching her ancestry for Canadian relatives. She must be loosing patients with Sundhage and whatever crazy idea she has about having Morgan ride the pine.
    Wambach is not the best striker in world, despite what Universal announcers insist. She’s not even the best striker on our team, some debate about being top 3. Few world class strikers miss two free headers from the 6 yrd box in a game. Why must she start when we have much more dangerous players on the bench. Yes Wambach has been great. Just not lately.
    Rapinoe and Rod are our next most dangerous players after Morgan, and they don’t start either.
    Heath and O’rielly are OK, but not nearly as effective as O’hara, Morgan, Rapinoe, and Rod. And I haven’t even mentioned Laroux.

    I do agree with the 4-3-3 (you call it 4-1-2-3) with your midfield. However, I would play different forwards. I would start with Morgan, Rod, and Rapinoe; Laroux would be my first sub. If at the end of the game we were tied or one behind and had settled on just bombing the box, then add Wambach having taken out Lapeilbet.

    Lets be honest, we played fairly well with the players that Sundhage played. And we got by Las Ticas with a little room to spare – but Costa Rica are not nearly, Brazil, France, Germany, or Japan. The Japanese don’t get tired and are faster. We don’t have a significant horsepower advantage over Germany. And Brazil is just a ton better than Costa Rica. I would say our team played at about 70% what is doable from players dressed. And that’s about average for Sundhage. The world has caught up. We still have the players to dominate, we just have to use them smarter. Here’s my idea, lets start our best players.

    • maureen on January 30, 2012 at 7:46 am

      totally agree.

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